Editor’s note: The Red Sox will break camp with 25 players heading north to Boston. We begin a daily look at each position on the club, from the projected starters to their backups, as well as every member of the coaching staff. Our latest installment examines first base coach Ron Johnson.
The 2010 season was a difficult one for Ron Johnson. An accident involving his daughter altered the course of the campaign in a way that nobody, certainly not Johnson, could imagine.
The fact that he is back on the field, flashing his familiar smile, says all you need to know about the promise of 2011 for the Red Sox.
Johnson, the former manager at Triple-A Pawtucket is one of the great guys in baseball and universally respected.
The trial his family went through did more than just offer everyone a reminder as to what is truly important in life, it dramatically altered the Red Sox clubhouse.
In a heartbeat, there was a void around the team. It was understandable. Johnson was, and still is, granted all the time he needs to tend to his daughter as she continues her recovery. But as the Sox struggled to keep things together themselves as several players were lost to injury and the daily lineup lacked star power, the team itself lacked the irrepressible presence of its first base coach.
Johnson was the manager at Pawtucket for five years. A catcher in the Kansas City and Montreal systems during his playing days (he got into 22 games in the majors), he was a minor league manager for 18 years overall and named to his current post in November 2009.
In part because he managed many of the players as they came up through Pawtucket but also due to his one-of-a-kind personality, Johnson immediately took to the role.
When camp began in Fort Myers last month and Johnson was back at it, running drills, providing wisdom and slapping backs like nobody can, it was as good a sign as any that this is a new year in Boston. The organization made several major moves this offseason, but one of the biggest changes in the clubhouse was the return of Johnson.